WWII air veterans of Doolittle Raiders celebrate 71 years of bombing civilians

Doolittle nose-art
I read 30 Seconds Over Tokyo when I was still a war-playing kid, before I would understand the mischievous consequences of the Doolittle Raiders B-25 bombers deploying without their bombsights. This was to prevent US war-making advantages falling into enemy hands but it also precluded dropping bombs with accuracy. I’m pretty certain the account for young readers also didn’t explain why over a quarter of the squadron’s bombs were of the incidiary cluster variety. Readers today know what those are for. Doolittle claimed to be targeting military sites in Japan’s capitol, but “invariably” hit civilian areas including four schools and a hospital. Of the American fliers captured, three were tried and executed by the despicable “Japs”, who considered the straffing of civilians to be war crimes. After the war, the US judged the Japanese officers responsible, as if their verdict was a greater injustice against our aviators’ “honest errors”. Today we rationalize our systemic overshoot policy as “collateral damage”.

Every year since WWII, Doolittle’s commandos are feted for their milestone bombing mission. This Veterans Day is to be the last due to their advanced ages. But it is fitting, because isn’t it time Americans faced what we’re celebrating? There’s no denying it took suicidal daring, but the Doolittle Raid inaugurated what became a staple of US warfare, the wholesale terrorizing of civilians from on high, with impunity and indifference. To be fair, the American public has always been kept in the dark. American aircraft have fire-bombed civilians at every diplomatic opportunity since 1942, and a Private Manning sits in the brig for trying to give us a chance to object.

We now know that the Doolittle Raid didn’t turn the tide, nor shake Japanese resolve. It was a retalliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, intended to boost US morale as if to say, America wasn’t defeated. Kinda like why and how we struck back at Afghanistan after 9/11, just as indiscriminately.

The “Mark Twain” ersatz bombsight
substitute bombsightThe Norden bombsight was a closely guarded US secret weapon. An airstrike without it would today be like lobotomizing so-called smart bombs, and deciding to opt for imprecision bombing. The official army record recounts that a subsitute sighting mechanism was improvised for the raid, dubbed the “Mark Twain” and judged to be effective enough. Now a bad joke. Indochina and Wikileaks-wisened, we know the mendacity of that assessment. The vehemently anti-imperialist, anti-racist Twain would not have been honored.

Twain satirized Western so-called Enlightenment thus: “good to fire villages with, upon occasion”.

Post-postwar hagiographies of the raid have suggested the improvised bombsight was better suited to low-altitude missions than the Norden model. That conclusion is easily dismissed because the device was used only for the Doolittle run and never after. The sight’s designer, mission aviator C. Ross Greening, offered a explanation for why he named the device after Mark Twain in his pothumously published memoir Not As Briefed. He didn’t.

The bombsight is named the “Mark Twain” in reference to the “lead line” depth finder used on the Mississippi River paddle wheelers in bygone days.

Because its design was so simple, we’re left to suppose. Greening’s bombsight was named for the same “mark” which Samuel Langhorne Clemens adopted as his celebrated pen name. I find it disingeneous to pretend to repurpose an archaic expression whose meaning was already eclipsed by the household name of America’s most outspoken anti-imperialist. Who would believe you named your dog “Napoleon” after a French pastry?

We are given another glimpse into Greening’s sense of humor by how he named his plane, the “Hari-Kari-er” ready to deal death by bomb-induced suicide. Greening’s B-25 is the one pictured above, with the angelic tart holding a bomb aloft. Greening’s plane was another that carried only incendiary ordnance.

Much was made of the sight’s two-piece aluminum construction, reportedly costing 20 cents at the time compared to the $10,000 Norden. This provided the jingoist homefront the smug satisfaction perhaps, combining a frugality born of the Depression with the American tradition of racism, that only pennies were expensed and or risked on Japanese lives.

War Crimes
Targeting civilians, taking insufficient care to avoid civilian casualties, using disproportunate force, acts of wanton retaliation, and the use of collective punishment are all prohibited by international convention. They are war crimes for which the US prosecutes adversaries but with which our own military refuses to abide. Americans make much of terrorism, yet remain blind to state terrorism. Doolittle’s historic raid, judged by the objective against which it is celebrated as a success, was an act of deliberate terrorism.

Forcing the Japanese to deploy more of their military assets to protect the mainland sounds like a legitimate strategy, except not by targeting civilians to illustrate the vulnerability, nor by terrorizing the population, one of Doolittle’s stated aims. He called it a “fear complex”.

It was hoped that the damage done would be both material and psychological. Material damage was to be the destruction of specific targets with ensuing confusion and retardation of production. The psychological results, it was hoped, would be the recalling of combat equipment from other theaters for home defense, the development of a fear complex in Japan, improved relationships with our Allies, and a favorable reaction in the American people.

There is no defending Japan’s imperialist expansion in the Pacific, and certainly not its own inhumanity. The Japanese treated fellow Asians with the same racist disregard with which we dispatched Filipinos. While Americans point in horror at how the Japanese retalliated against the Chinese population for the Doolittle Raid, we ignore that Doolittle purposely obscured from where our bombers were launched, leaving China’s coast as the only probably suspect.

To be fair, most of Doolittle’s team was kept in the dark about the mission until they were already deployed. I hardly want to detract from the courage they showed to undertake a project that seemed virtually suicidal. But how long should all of us remain in the dark about the true character of the Doolittle Raid?

Out of deference for the earlier generation of WWII veterans, those in leadership, certain intelligence secrets were kept until thirty years after the war. Unveiled, they paint a very different picture of what transpired. The fact that the US knew the German and Japanese codes from early on revealed an imbalance not previously admitted, as an example.

About the Doolittle Raid, much is already openly documented, if not widely known. The impetus for the raid was public knowledge, the evidence of its intent in full view.

BY DESIGN
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, American newspapers were already touting offers of cash rewards for whoever would be the first to strike back at Japan. President Roosevelt expressed a deliberate interest in hitting the Japanese mainland, in particular Tokyo, to retaliate for the Japanese strike against Pearl Harbor, never mind it had been a solely military target.

Plans were made to exploit the Japanese homeland’s vulnerability to fire, as ninety percent of urban structures were made of paper and wood. Writes historian William Bruce Jenson:

In his “confidential” meeting with reporters back in November, Marshall had declared that the US would have no cavil about burning Japan’s paper cities.

For the Doolittle Raid, a bombing strategy was developed to overwhelm the fire department of his target, the Shiba ward.

A former naval attache in Tokyo told Doolittle: “I know that Tokyp fire department very well. Seven big scattered fires would be too much for it to cope with.”

As lead plane, Doolittle’s role was to literally blaze the way. Fellow pilot Richard Joyce told Nebraska History Magazine in 1995:

The lead airplane, which was going to have Doolittle on board as the airplane commander, was going to be loaded with nothing but incendiaries -2.2­ pound thermite incendiaries- in clus­ters. They drop these big clusters and then the straps break and they spray, so they set a whole bunch of fires. He was to be the pathfinder and set a whole bunch of fires in Tokyo for pathfinding purposes.

Doolittle’s report outlined his objective more formally:

one plane was to take off ahead of the others, arrive over Tokyo at dusk and fire the most inflammable part of the city with incendiary bombs. This minimized the overall hazard and assured that the target would be lighted up for following airplanes.

Greening paints the most vivid picture, of burning the Japanese paper houses to light the way:

Doolittle planned to leave a couple of hours early, and in the dark set fire to Tokyo’s Shiba ward … the mission’s basic tactic had been that Doolittle would proceed alone and bomb a flammable section of Tokyo, creating a beacon in the night to help guide following planes to their targets.

Doolittle’s copilot Lt Richard Cole, told this to interviews in 1957:

Since we had a load of incendiaries, our target was the populated areas of the west and northwest parts of Tokyo.

After the bombers had left on their raid, and before news got back about whether or not they accomplished it, the Navy crew on the carrier USS Hornet already sang this song, which went in part:

Little did Hiro think that night
The skies above Tokyo would be alight
With the fires that Jimmy started in Tokyo’s dives
To guide to their targets the B-25s.
When all of a sudden from out of the skies
Came a basket of eggs for the little slant eyes

Incendiaries

Most of the bombers were loaded with three demolition bombs and an incendiary cluster bomb. Some of the planes carried only incendiaries. According to Doolittle’s official report of the raid, here were some of their stated objectives:

Plane no. 40-2270, piloted by Lt. Robert Gray:
thickly populated small factories district. … Fourth scattered incendiary over the correct area

Plane No. 40-2250, Lt. Richard Joyce:
Incendiary cluster dropped over thickly populated and dense industrial residential sector immediately inshore from primary target. (Shiba Ward)

“The third dem. bomb and the incendiary were dropped in the heavy industrial and residential section in the Shiba Ward 1/4 of a mile in shore from the bay and my tat.”

Aircraft 40-2303, Lt Harold Watson:
the congested industrial districts near the railroad station south of the Imperial Palace

AC 40-2283, David Jones:
the congested area Southeast of the Imperial Palace

Even though the planned night raid became a daytime mission, Doolittle did not alter his original role, intended to light the way for the following planes. His target remained the Shiba District of Tokyo. His own plane: “changed course to the southwest and incendiary-bombed highly inflammable section.”

Doolittle’s report included a description of the incendiary bombs:

The Chemical Warfare Service provided special 500 incendiary clusters each containing 128 incendiary bombs. These clusters were developed at the Edgewood Arsenal and test dropped by the Air Corps test group at Aberdeen. Several tests were carried on to assure their proper functioning and to determine the dropping angle and dispersion. Experimental work on and production of these clusters was carried on most efficiently.

As has become an aerial bombardment tradition, crews were let to inscribe messages on the bombs about to be dropped. Accounts made the most of these chestnuts: “You’ll get a BANG out of this.” And “I don’t want to set the world on fire –only Tokyo.”

These details, which reveal the intentions of the raid, were not made known to the public immediately. The Doolittle Raid was planned and executed in secret, with US government and military spokesmen denying knowledge of the operation even in its aftermath. The first word to reach the American public came from the New York Times, citing Japanese sources:

Enemy bombers appeared over Tokyo for the first time in the current war, inflicting damage on schools and hospitals. Invading planes failed to cause and damage on military establishments, although casualties in the schools and hospitals were as yet unknown. This inhuman attack on these cultural establishments and on residential districts is causing widespread indignation among the populace.

This report was dismissed as propaganda. When Japan declared its intention to charge the airman it had taken captive with war crimes, the US protestations redoubled. The accusations were belittled even as our own reports conceded to the possibilities.

Lieutenant Dawson’s Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was the first published account of the raid. Printed less than a year after the event, wartime-sensitive details such as the phony guns made of broomstick handles poking out the back were left out. Targets were also not specified, but a candor remained, probably intended to be threatening. Lawson described the 500-pound incendiaries as “something like the old Russian Molotov Breadbasket”, and related US naval attache Jurika’s advice:

“If you can start seven good fires in Tokyo, they’ll never put them out,” Jurika promised us. … “I wouldn’t worry too much about setting fires in flimsy-looking sections of Tokyo,” he said. “The Japanese have done an amazing job of spreading out some of their industries, instead of concentrating them in large buildings. There’s probably a small machine shop under half of these fragile-looking roofs.”

“Flimsy” became Lawson’s keyword for the residential areas. Here Lawson described dropping his third and fourth bombs, when he saw their corresponding red light indicators:

The third red light flickered, and, since we were now over a flimsy area in the southern part of the city, the fourth light blinked. That was the incendiary, which I knew would separate as soon as it hit the wind and that dozens of small fire bombs would molt from it.

I was satisfied about the steel-smelter and hoped the other bombs had done as well. There was no way of telling, but I was positive that Tokyo could have been damaged that day with a rock.

Our actual bombing operation, from the time the first one went until the dive, consumed not more than thirty seconds.

Thus: Chance of hitting civilian homes: 50/50.
Charges of Excessive Force could be expected, because
blame the victim for being weaker than: a rock.
Care taken to avoid innocent casualties: 30 seconds.

In a later afterword, Lawson blamed Tokyo for having insufficient bomb shelters.

After the war, US occupation forces recovered Japanese records which documented the losses attributed to the Doolittle Raid: fifty dead, 252 wounded, ninety buildings. Besides military or strategic targets, that number included nine electric power buildings, a garment factory, a food storage warehouse, a gas company, two misc factories, six wards of Nagoya 2nd Temporary Army Hospital, six elementary or secondary schools, and “innumerable nonmilitary residences”.

Strafing
Japan accused the fliers of indescriminate strafing civilians. The US countered that defending fighters were responsible for stray bullets when their gunfire missed the bombers. That’s very likely, except the raiders were candid about their strafing too. Lawson:

I nosed down a railroad track on the outskirts of the city and passed a locomotive close enough to see the surprised face of the engineer. As I went by I could have kicked myself for not giving the locomotive’s boiler a burst of our forward 30-calibre guns, then I remembered that we might have better use for the ammunition.

A big yacht loomed up ahead of us and, figuring it must be armed, I told Thatcher to give it a burst. We went over it, lifted our nose to put the tail down and Thatcher sprayed its deck with our 50-calibre stingers.

Greening’s account of firing on a sailor, raises the moral ambiguity of air warfare with which few airmen grapple. By virtue that technology allows it, combatants become slave to a predetermined outcome:

When we attacked the next patrol boat, a Japanese sailor threw his hands up as if to surrender. I guess he expected us to stop and take him prisoner. We shot him and left this boat smoking too.

The Medals
Friendship Medals exchanged between Japan and the US found themselves requisitioned for Doolittle’s Raid:

Several years prior to the war, medals of friendship and good relationship were awarded to several people of the United States by the Japanese government.  In substance these medals were symbolic of the friendship and cooperation between the nations and were to represent the duration of this attitude.  It was decided by the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Frank Knox, that the time was appropriate to have these medals returned.  They had been awarded to Mr. Daniel J. Quigley, Mr. John D. Laurey, Mr. H. Vormstein and Lt. Stephen Jurkis.

After arrangements had been made and the medals secured, a ceremony was held on the deck of the Hornet during which the medals were wired to a 500 lb. bomb to be carried by Lt. Ted Lawson and returned to the Japanese government in an appropriate fashion.

Lawson’s plane no 40-2261 dropped that bomb on an “industrial section of Tokyo” omitting to mention that Japan’s industry was still a post-feudal cottage industry.

“The medals were subsequently delivered in small pieces to their donors in Tokyo by Lt. Ted Lawson at about noon, Saturday, April 18, 1942.”

–Mitscher, M.A. Letter Report to Commander Pacific Fleet.

“Through the courtesy of the War Department your Japanese medal and similar medals, turned in for shipment, were returned to His Royal Highness, The Emperor of Japan on April 18, 1942.”

–Knox, F. Letter Report to Mr. H. Vormstein

Picture of Israeli worth 20 Palestinians

Galid Shalit kidnapped by Hamas in 2006At first glance the trade betrayed a racist inequity. This week Israel agreed to release twenty Palestinian women in exchange for one Israeli held captive by Hamas. Not for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, just for proof that he was still alive.

What is the worth of one Israeli? At first his captors demanded the release of all Palestinian women and girls. Later they asked for the release of 1,000 detainees. But the relative values are reversed. Shalit is the lone POW held by Palestine. Israel incarcerates an estimated 11,000, most detained for obstructing the construction of the Apartheid Wall. Exchanging Shalit would represent a trade of 100% for 9%. Don’t worry, Israel’s occupation forces can always capture more.

Gilad Shalit is the first IDF soldier captured by the Palestinians since 1994. Israel on the other hand, with the collaboration of Fatah, can arrest civilians whenever they choose.

Shalit’s capture is an interesting story. Israel claims to have received warning of the eminent kidnap attempt. The day before, IDF soldiers raided a house belonging to a suspected Hamas militant. They arrested his two sons, a doctor and a lawyer. Their torture allegedly extracted details of a cross-border raid. As a result, technically I suppose you could say, their intelligence officers “received warning.” However Israel was unable to thwart the tank operator’s capture.

Shalit has served as the pretext for many ensuing incursions into Gaza, at a great cost to Palestinian lives. Draw your own conclusions.

Israel propagates this story to assert that Gilad Shalit was “kidnapped,” invoking a litany of international laws which Israel wields against Hamas. With shameless hypocrisy, Israelis protest the inhumanities suffered by Shalit, ignoring the documentation of thousands of imprisoned Palestinian subjected to worse. The irony of Israel’s complaints becomes tedious: lack of International Red Cross access, parental visitation, regular correspondence, information of his exact whereabouts, etc. This in light of Israel’s refusal to permit oversight of its Palestinian detainees, or to denounce its tortures. What gall to decry the fate of one soldier, taken prisoner while on duty, with Israel’s demonstrated eagerness to expend ordnance and harass Palestinian civilians at whim.

Shalit has prompted Israel to launch aerial bombardments, and restrict border checkpoints in the effort to extort his release, or to pit Palestinian sentiments against Hamas, who refuse to release Shalit in spite of the collective punishment meted to its people.

The Israelis had reason to doubt that Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in 2006, was not dead. After all, the IDF was confident that their January incursion into Gaza had destroyed all known Hamas hiding places.

US, Sri Lanka, share concern for civilians

Tamil refugees Kadirgamh camp near Chettikulam
Do you wonder why US criticism hasn’t been more pronounced, as Sri Lanka’s military keeps bombing the Tamil Tiger rebels in spite of disproportionately high civilian casualties? Collateral Damage is our M.O.! From Afghanistan today come reports of Truckloads of dead civilians after Afghan battle, specifically a US aerial bombardment. As always, US Commander: Afghan Civilian Casualties Not from US Forces.

That was last year’s official response to the 90 Afghan civilian deaths after a US air raid on Azizabad.

The Independent is reporting that the Farah Province civilian casualty is closer to 120 than the US DoD’s reported five. We are left only to check with Google to learn what will turn out to have happened, irrespective of what US-NATO media relations eventually confirms. Google the village of Ganj Abad, in the Bala Baluk district.

South Ossetia a land grab by US Georgia

Russian tanks come to protect South OssetiaThe US is decrying Russian aggression in South Ossetia, a breakaway province of Georgia, itself a breakaway of the ex-Soviet states. Georgia is a US proxy and a NATO beachhead aimed toward Russia and the Middle East. South Ossetia is a critical part. Here’s analysis from Global Research:

War in the Caucasus: Towards a Broader Russia-US Military Confrontation?
By Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, August 10, 2008

During the night of August 7, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia’s president Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

The aerial bombardments and ground attacks were largely directed against civilian targets including residential areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali was destroyed. The attacks resulted in some 1500 civilian deaths, according to both Russian and Western sources. “The air and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without water, food, electricity and gas. Horrified civilians crawled out of the basements into the streets as fighting eased, looking for supplies.” (AP, August 9, 2008). According to reports, some 34,000 people from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. (Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, August 10, 2008)

The importance and timing of this military operation must be carefully analyzed. It has far-reaching implications.

Georgia is an outpost of US and NATO forces, on the immediate border of the Russian Federation and within proximity of the Middle East Central Asian war theater. South Ossetia is also at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes.

Georgia does not act militarily without the assent of Washington. The Georgian head of State is a US proxy and Georgia is a de facto US protectorate.

Who is behind this military agenda? What interests are being served? What is the purpose of the military operation.

There is evidence that the attacks were carefully coordinated by the US military and NATO.

Moscow has accused NATO of “encouraging Georgia”. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscored the destabilizing impacts of “foreign” military aid to Georgia: .

“It all confirms our numerous warnings addressed to the international community that it is necessary to pay attention to massive arms purchasing by Georgia during several years. Now we see how these arms and Georgian special troops who had been trained by foreign specialists are used,” he said.(Moscow accuses NATO of having “encouraged Georgia” to attack South Ossetia, Russia Today, August 9, 2008)

Moscow’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, sent an official note to the representatives of all NATO member countries:

“Russia has already begun consultations with the ambassadors of the NATO countries and consultations with NATO military representatives will be held tomorrow,” Rogozin said. “We will caution them against continuing to further support of Saakashvili.”

“It is an undisguised aggression accompanied by a mass propaganda war,” he said.

(See Moscow accuses NATO of having “encouraged Georgia” to attack South Ossetia, Russia Today, August 9, 2008)

According to Rogozin, Georgia had initially planned to:

“start military action against Abkhazia, however, ‘the Abkhaz fortified region turned out to be unassailable for Georgian armed formations, therefore a different tactic was chosen aimed against South Ossetia’, which is more accessible territorially. The envoy has no doubts that Mikheil Saakashvili had agreed his actions with “sponsors”, “those with whom he is negotiating Georgia’s accession to NATO “. (RIA Novosti, August 8, 2008)

Contrary to what was conveyed by Western media reports, the attacks were anticipated by Moscow. The attacks were timed to coincide with the opening of the Olympics, largely with a view to avoiding frontpage media coverage of the Georgian military operation.

On August 7, Russian forces were in an advanced state readiness. The counterattack was swiftly carried out.

Russian paratroopers were sent in from Russia’s Ivanovo, Moscow and Pskov airborne divisions. Tanks, armored vehicles and several thousand ground troops have been deployed. Russian air strikes have largely targeted military facilities inside Georgia including the Gori military base.

The Georgian military attack was repealed with a massive show of strength on the part of the Russian military.
Act of Provocation?

US-NATO military and intelligence planners invariably examine various “scenarios” of a proposed military operation– i.e. in this case, a limited Georgian attack largely directed against civilian targets, with a view to inflicting civilian casualties.

The examination of scenarios is a routine practice. With limited military capabilities, a Georgian victory and occupation of Tskhinvali, was an impossibility from the outset. And this was known and understood to US-NATO military planners.

A humanitarian disaster rather than a military victory was an integral part of the scenario. The objective was to destroy the provincial capital, while also inflicting a significant loss of human life.

If the objective were to restore Georgian political control over the provincial government, the operation would have been undertaken in a very different fashion, with Special Forces occupying key public buildings, communications networks and provincial institutions, rather than waging an all out bombing raid on residential areas, hospitals, not to mention Tskhinvali’s University.

The Russian response was entirely predictable.

Georgia was “encouraged” by NATO and the US. Both Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels were acutely aware of what would happen in the case of a Russian counterattack.

The question is: was this a deliberate provocation intended to trigger a Russian military response and suck the Russians into a broader military confrontation with Georgia (and allied forces) which could potentially escalate into an all out war?

Georgia has the third largest contingent of coalition forces in Iraq after the US and the UK, with some 2000 troops. According to reports, Georgian troops in Iraq are now being repatriated in US military planes, to fight Russian forces. (See Debka.com, August 10, 2008)

This US decision to repatriate Georgian servicemen suggests that Washington is intent upon an escalation of the conflict, where Georgian troops are to be used as canon fodder against a massive deployment of Russian forces.

US-NATO and Israel Involved in the Planning of the Attacks

In mid-July, Georgian and U.S. troops held a joint military exercise entitled “Immediate Response” involving respectively 1,200 US and 800 Georgian troops.

The announcement by the Georgian Ministry of Defense on July 12 stated that they US and Georgian troops were to “train for three weeks at the Vaziani military base” near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. (AP, July 15, 2008). These exercises, which were completed barely a week before the August 7 attacks, were an obvious dress rehearsal of a military operation, which, in all likelihood, had been planned in close cooperation with the Pentagon.

The war on Southern Ossetia was not meant to be won, leading to the restoration of Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia. It was intended to destabilize the region while also triggering a US-NATO confrontation with Russia.

On July 12, coinciding with the outset of the Georgia-US war games, the Russian Defense Ministry started its own military maneuvers in the North Caucasus region. The usual disclaimer by both Tblisi and Moscow: the military exercises have “nothing to do” with the situation in South Ossetia. (Ibid)

Let us be under no illusions. This is not a civil war. The attacks are an integral part of the broader Middle East Central Asian war, including US-NATO-Israeli war preparations in relation to Iran.

The Role of Israeli Military Advisers

While NATO and US military advisers did not partake in the military operation per se, they were actively involved in the planning and logistics of the attacks. According to Israeli sources (Debka.com, August 8, 2008), the ground assault on August 7-8, using tanks and artillery was “aided by Israeli military advisers”. Israel also supplied Georgia with Hermes-450 and Skylark unmanned aerial vehicles, which were used in the weeks leading up to the August 7 attacks.

Georgia has also acquired, according to a report in Rezonansi (August 6, in Georgian, BBC translation) “some powerful weapons through the upgrade of Su-25 planes and artillery systems in Israel”. According to Haaretz (August 10, 2008), Israelis are active in military manufacturing and security consulting in Georgia.

Russian forces are now directly fighting a NATO-US trained Georgian army integrated by US and Israeli advisers. And Russian warplanes have attacked the military jet factory on the outskirts of Tbilisi, which produces the upgraded Su-25 fighter jet, with technical support from Israel. (CTV.ca, August 10, 2008)

When viewed in the broader context of the Middle East war, the crisis in Southern Ossetia could lead to escalation, including a direct confrontation between Russian and NATO forces. If this were to occur, we would be facing the most serious crisis in US-Russian relations since the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962.

Georgia: NATO-US Outpost

Georgia is part of a NATO military alliance (GUAM) signed in April 1999 at the very outset of the war on Yugoslavia. It also has a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the US. These underlying military agreements have served to protect Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian sea basin as well as pipeline routes.

Both the US and NATO have a military presence in Georgia and are working closely with the Georgian Armed Forces. Since the signing of the 1999 GUAM agreement, Georgia has been the recipient of extensive US military aid.

Barely a few months ago, in early May, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused Washington, “claiming that [US as well as NATO and Israeli] military assistance to Georgia is destabilizing the region.” (Russia Claims Georgia in Arms Buildup, Wired News, May 19, 2008). According to the Russian Defense Ministry

“Georgia has received 206 tanks, of which 175 units were supplied by NATO states, 186 armored vehicles (126 – from NATO) , 79 guns (67 – from NATO) , 25 helicopters (12 – from NATO) , 70 mortars, ten surface-to-air missile systems, eight Israeli-made unmanned aircraft, and other weapons. In addition, NATO countries have supplied four combat aircraft to Georgia. The Russian Defense Ministry said there were plans to deliver to Georgia 145 armored vehicles, 262 guns and mortars, 14 combat aircraft including four Mirazh-2000 destroyers, 25 combat helicopters, 15 American Black Hawk aircraft, six surface-to-air missile systems and other arms.” (Interfax News Agency, Moscow, in Russian, Aug 7, 2008)

NATO-US-Israeli assistance under formal military cooperation agreements involves a steady flow of advanced military equipment as well as training and consulting services.

According to US military sources (spokesman for US European Command), the US has more than 100 “military trainers” in Georgia. A Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman “said there were no plans to redeploy the estimated 130 US troops and civilian contractors, who he said were stationed in the area around Tblisi” (AFP, 9 August 2008). In fact, US-NATO military presence in Georgia is on a larger scale to that acknowledged in official statements. The number of NATO personnel in Georgia acting as trainers and military advisers has not been confirmed.

Although not officially a member of NATO, Georgia’s military is full integrated into NATO procedures. In 2005, Georgian president proudly announced the inauguration of the first military base, which “fully meets NATO standards”. Immediately following the inauguration of the Senakskaya base in west Georgia, Tblisi announced the opening of a second military base at Gori which would also “comply with NATO regulations in terms of military requirements as well as social conditions.” (Ria Novosti, 26 May 2006).

The Gori base has been used to train Georgian troops dispatched to fight under US command in the Iraq war theater.

It is worth noting that under a March 31, 2006, agreement between Tblisi and Moscow, Russia’s two Soviet-era military bases in Georgia – Akhalkalaki and Batumi have been closed down. (Ibid) The pullout at Batumi commenced in May of last year, 2007. The last remaining Russian troops left the Batumi military facility in early July 2008, barely a week before the commencement of the US-Georgia war games and barely a month prior to the attacks on South Ossetia.

The Israel Connection

Israel is now part of the Anglo-American military axis, which serves the interests of the Western oil giants in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Israel is a partner in the Baku-Tblisi- Ceyhan pipeline which brings oil and gas to the Eastern Mediterranean. More than 20 percent of Israeli oil is imported from Azerbaijan, of which a large share transits through the BTC pipeline. Controlled by British Petroleum, the BTC pipeline has dramatically changed the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucusus:

“[The BTC pipeline] considerably changes the status of the region’s countries and cements a new pro-West alliance. Having taken the pipeline to the Mediterranean, Washington has practically set up a new bloc with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel, ” (Komerzant, Moscow, 14 July 2006)

While the official reports state that the BTC pipeline will “channel oil to Western markets”, what is rarely acknowledged is that part of the oil from the Caspian sea would be directly channeled towards Israel, via Georgia. In this regard, a Israeli-Turkish pipeline project has also been envisaged which would link Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon and from there through Israel’s main pipeline system, to the Red Sea.

The objective of Israel is not only to acquire Caspian sea oil for its own consumption needs but also to play a key role in re-exporting Caspian sea oil back to the Asian markets through the Red Sea port of Eilat. The strategic implications of this re-routing of Caspian sea oil are far-reaching. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 2006)

What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline, from Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon.

“Turkey and Israel are negotiating the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel to the Far East,

The new Turkish-Israeli proposal under discussion would see the transfer of water, electricity, natural gas and oil to Israel via four underwater pipelines.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1145961328841&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull“Baku oil can be transported to Ashkelon via this new pipeline and to India and the Far East.[via the Red sea]”

“Ceyhan and the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon are situated only 400 km apart. Oil can be transported to the city in tankers or via specially constructed under-water pipeline. From Ashkelon the oil can be pumped through already existing pipeline to the port of Eilat at the Red Sea; and from there it can be transported to India and other Asian countries in tankers. (REGNUM)

In this regard, Israel is slated to play a major strategic role in “protecting” the Eastern Mediterranean transport and pipeline corridors out of Ceyhan. Concurrently, it also involved in channeling military aid and training to both Georgia and Azerbaijan.

A far-reaching 1999 bilateral military cooperation agreement between Tblisi and Tel Aviv was reached barely a month before the NATO sponsored GUUAM agreement. It was signed in Tbilisi by President Shevardnadze and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyu. These various military cooperation arrangements are ultimately intended to undermine Russia’s presence and influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In a pro forma declaration, Tel Aviv committed itself, following bilateral discussions with Moscow, on August 5, 2008, to cut back military assistance to Georgia.

Russia’s Response

In response to the attacks, Russian forces intervened with conventional ground troops. Tanks and armored vehicles were sent in. The Russian air force was also involved in aerial counter-attacks on Georgian military positions including the military base of Gori.

The Western media has portrayed the Russian as solely responsible for the deaths of civilians, yet at the same time the Western media has acknowledged (confirmed by the BBC) that most of the civilian casualties at the outset were the result of the Georgian ground and air attacks.

Based on Russian and Western sources, the initial death toll in South Ossetia was at least 1,400 (BBC) mostly civilians. “Georgian casualty figures ranged from 82 dead, including 37 civilians, to a figure of around 130 dead…. A Russian air strike on Gori, a Georgian town near South Ossetia, left 60 people dead, many of them civilians, Georgia says.” (BBC, August 9, 2008). Russian sources place the number of civilian deaths on South Ossetia at 2000.

A process of escalation and confrontation between Russia and America is unfolding, reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Are we dealing with an act of provocation, with a view to triggering a broader conflict? Supported by media propaganda, the Western military alliance is intent on using this incident to confront Russia, as evidenced by recent NATO statements.